Reconsideration denied December 11, 2014.
Murder. DeKalb Superior Court. Before Judge Flake.
Judgment affirmed in Case No. S14A1162. Judgments affirmed in Case Nos. S14A1163, S14A1516, and S14A1533.
Margaret E. Flynt, for appellant (case no. S14A1162).
Steven E. Phillips, for appellant (case no. S14A1163).
David D. Marshall, for appellant (case no. S14A1516).
Jeffrey W. Cofer, Gerald P. Privin, Jared S. Westbroek, for appellant (case no. S14A1533).
Robert D. James, Jr., District Attorney, Leonora Grant, Assistant District Attorney, Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Patricia B. Attaway Burton, Deputy Attorney General, Paula K. Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Andrew G. Sims, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
BENHAM, Justice. All the Justices concur, except Melton, J., who dissents.
Appellants Jaqwanta Grimes, Brandon Reed, Antoine Willis, and Kyree Brantley appeal their convictions stemming from the shooting death of Marcus Holloway and the aggravated assault of LaQuinton Forte. For reasons set forth herein, we affirm. The [296 Ga. 338] evidence viewed in a light most favorable to
the verdict shows that in January 2011, co-indictee Charles Slaton (a/k/a " Fat" ) had a dispute with Dwain O'Neal. On the afternoon of the shooting, Slaton was visiting the apartment of a woman (hereinafter " G.S." ) when O'Neal stopped by G.S.'s apartment as well. G.S. testified Slaton hid from [296 Ga. 339] O'Neal inside her apartment. After seeing some items of clothing he recognized as belonging to Slaton inside the apartment, including a hat that said " Ho Hater," O'Neal began looking for Slaton inside the apartment. When he could not find Slaton, O'Neal left the apartment, went to the parking lot and slashed the tires on the car which Slaton was seen driving. O'Neal then went back inside the apartment. Meanwhile, Slaton had called his friends to come get him.
According to co-indictee Lancelot Hicks (a/k/a " Lil' Lance" ), Grimes (a/k/a " Qwan" ), Brantley (a/k/a " Corey" ), Willis (a/k/a " Nuk" or " Nook" ), Reed (a/k/a " White Boy Brandon" ), and someone going by the name of " Yams" arrived at the apartment complex in two different vehicles. Hicks stayed in the car he was in, but said he saw Reed, Grimes, Willis and Slaton exiting an apartment. He said Reed, Grimes, and Willis were shooting while Slaton took cover behind them. Hicks said Brantley and Yams exited the car and also began shooting. According to G.S., when the shooting started, O'Neal ran out the back of her apartment and, shortly thereafter, Slaton went out the front door. O'Neal testified that after going out the back window of G.S.'s apartment, he fled to his grandmother's apartment which was in a different building of the complex.
During the shooting melee that transpired in the parking lot outside G.S.'s apartment, Holloway, who was with Forte and David Moore (who was inside a car), was struck in the head and died of his injuries. Hicks stated the shooters and Slaton entered their vehicles and fled. Authorities recovered twenty-three shell casings from the scene and a single bullet from the victim's body, indicating that at least four, and possibly five, different guns were used during the shooting. Authorities recovered a 9mm Ruger pistol from the apartment of Willis's girlfriend and recovered a .357 Glock pistol from the car Willis was riding in at the time of his arrest. The ballistics expert testified that three of the 9mm shell casings recovered from the scene [296 Ga. 340] were fired from the 9mm Ruger pistol and the seven .357 shell casings were fired from the Glock .357 pistol recovered during Willis's arrest. The evidence showed that neither O'Neal, Holloway, Forte, nor Moore was armed with guns.
Authorities arrested Slaton first. While in jail, Slaton related details about the shooting to his cellmate Anthony Johnson and, in turn, Johnson went to authorities with the information. Johnson told authorities that Slaton told him two of the shooters used 9mm pistols, one used a .380 gun, one had a .45, and one had a .357. Johnson also told police that Slaton said the names of some of the shooters were " Nook" or " Nuk," " Corey," and/or " Brandon." Johnson told police he could get the other shooters' names. Brantley's ex-girlfriend testified that Brantley told her he was with Grimes, Willis, Slaton, and Hicks at the apartments when the shooting occurred. Hicks testified that Slaton, Grimes, Willis, and Brantley had the words " Ho Haters" tattooed on their bodies. Hicks
also identified all appellants in open court as the persons he saw shooting on the day in question.
The allegations raised on appeal by each appellant are addressed below.
1. Appellant Grimes (S14A1162). (a) Grimes alleges the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to convict him because Hicks's testimony was uncorroborated. He argues the testimony of Brantley's ex-girlfriend merely placed him at the scene at the time of the shootings, but did not show he engaged in any criminal activity. Former OCGA § 24-4-8 provided that in " felony cases where the only witness is an accomplice, the testimony of a single witness is not sufficient. Nevertheless, corroborating circumstances may dispense with the necessity for the testimony of a second witness. ..." This Court has held that " slight evidence from an extraneous source identifying the accused as a participant in the criminal act is sufficient corroboration of the accomplice to support a verdict." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Brown v. State, 291 Ga. 750 (1) (733 S.E.2d 300) (2012). See also Young v. State, 291 Ga. 627 (2) (732 S.E.2d 269) (2012). The corroborating evidence in itself need not be sufficient to support the conviction, but it must " be independent of the accomplice testimony and must directly connect the defendant with the crime, or lead to the inference that he is guilty." (Citation omitted.) Threatt v. State, 293 Ga. 549 (1) (748 S.E.2d 400) (2013).
Here, Grimes does not dispute that the testimony of Brantley's ex-girlfriend placed him at the scene of the shooting when it occurred. [296 Ga. 341] The record shows the ex-girlfriend's testimony was independent of Hicks's testimony, yet consistent with and corroborative of Hicks's testimony that he saw Grimes at the scene shooting a gun and then fleeing with the others. Hicks's testimony was corroborated in other ways as well. For example, Hicks's testimony identifying five shooters was consistent with the physical evidence collected from the scene and from the victim's body, as well as consistent with the testimony of the ballistics expert who stated that there were at least four and possibly five shooters. Johnson also told police about five guns used during the incident, thereby indicating there were likely five shooters. In addition, O'Neal testified that inside G.S.'s apartment he saw an item of clothing with the words " Ho Hater" which he recognized as belonging to Slaton. This evidence was consistent with Hicks's testimony that Grimes and Slaton had the words " Ho Haters" tattooed on their bodies. ...